BMW 1 Series F20, the second generation of the aspirational BMW. If the first 1 Series was the official car of “I want BMW but I can’t really afford a BMW”, the BMW 1 Series F20 takes your money and gives you what I got when I asked for a raise.
That’s because back in 2004 you still had the option of buying an E46ti, which was the real aspirational BMW so it was quite an debate as to which was the true poor man’s BMW. But in 2011 the BMW 1 Series F20 was THE cheapest BMW, both in price and quality and what you got.
30,000 euros for a 94-horsepower BMW.
When I saw the initial list of configurations and saw that a BMW 1 Series F20 was asking 30,000 euros for a 101 horsepower petrol or a 94 horsepower diesel, I closed the browser. Maybe if they offered you a 101 horsepower petrol AND a 94 horsepower diesel it was a deal at that money, but when you come in and ask for Golf VII GTI levels of money and offer Clio levels of power, then you know you’ve seriously screwed up. In fact, the Clio 0.9 TCe will seriously kick your bottom on the streets because it has 4 or 11 fewer horses but it also weighs considerably less. Man, I can go all day long with jokes about comparing the Clio to the BMW.
You receive something other than the badge for the money, right?
Yes, you get the ability to tick optional extras. And because we’re talking about a premium German manufacturer (we’ve discussed this issue with the Audi A3 8V as well), everything is optional: steering wheel, windows, seats, pedals, mirrors, and so on. But at least it looks good and you can say you have a BMW and you can prove it, at the pub when you put the car keys on the table, or flaunting them at the club. You could also brag about the rear-wheel drive, but be honest with yourself: You don’t even know what it means and you don’t care to know either. You’re interested in the badge. It’s not like you bought a family car, because you don’t have room in the back because of the transmission tunnel (tranny tunnel sounds way too dubious) anyway. Seriously, if this car had only come as a coupe and only with a 2-litre petrol, then it would have been a serious competitor to the 6 Series.
Am I a hater when I talk about rear-wheel drive?
I’m not. BMW on the other hand, yes. That’s because the BMW 1 Series F20 is the last rear-wheel drive 1 Series, the successor F40 being just another front-wheel drive hatchback. That’s because even BMW realized that most buyers have no idea what rear-wheel drive is and realized that you can’t really enjoy the rear-wheel drive if you only have 94 horsepower so they switched to front-wheel drive.
BMW 1 Series F20 Engines
1.5 Turbo of 107 horsepower – This microscopic 1.5 turbocharged 3-cylinder heralds the beginning of the end for the classic BMW 1 Series. 1.5 engine, 3-cylinders, front-wheel drive, the BMW 1 Series F20 takes more of a beating than Nokia did in 2014 when it was flushed out by the smartphone. As an engine, it has no specific issues but is more dependent on quality oil changed on time than I am on Midsomer Murders at night, when my pajamas get stuck in my buttocks.
1.6 Turbo N13 of 101, 134, 168, and 174 horsepower – Codenamed N13, this lovely piece of junk affectionately referred to as “Prince” has ruined the reputation of Mini and Peugeot. Anyway, redundant to say that one engine ruined Peugeot’s reputation. It’s like now you’ve got every disease possible whose name starts with the letter “S” and you’re complaining you’ve got gonorrhea. It’s kind of pointless at that point, much like this engine. However, on the BMW there aren’t that many issues as compared to the other brands..
2.0 Turbo of 181, 215, and 221 horsepower – Watch out for the 215i, codenamed N20. Even though it’s not as mind-twisting as in the past, there can still be occasional timing chain tensioner and high-pressure fuel pump issues. As for the other variants they have code names B48 and have no specific issues.
3.0 Turbo of 315, 322, and 335 horsepower – Only coming to the M135i and M140i to kick you in the nads, these engines are being bolted in cars which are so different from the standard models, that they demand their own article.
- 1.5 Turbo of 114 horsepower – Probably the most balanced engine for the aspirational BMW 1 Series F20. It has no specific issues other than the particle filter which is even more sensible than Susan Boyle’s voice, but still, 114 horses? Really?
- 1.6 Turbo of 94 horsepower – You better watch out, you better not cry, for the famous N47 has gone awry. The smallest, most anemic, and useless engine also comes with specific issues. Even though since 2011 the timing issues has been largely solved, it still has a below-average life expectancy. It just doesn’t cost you twice the value of the car anymore just to replace the timing chain and fix the issue.
- 2.0 Turbo of 114, 141, 181, 188, 215, and 221 horsepower – Here you have a lump of N47 and B47 but at least you don’t have any issues to worry about. However, I’d avoid 2011 diesel engines because you never know if you’ve got the updated, trouble-free engine or you got an the old engine that breaks down every 20 minutes.
BMW 1 Series F20 General Issues
- It’s raining men, halelujah…no wait, it just rains in the car. Much like the Ford Focus III, the window seals are made of chewed gum and toilet paper, and at the first rain they melt and turn your car into a Spongebob movie set.
- The microscopic space in the back is courtesy of the tranny tunnel, which should make you think if you can live with it or not. But I don’t think you care anyway because you don’t have any friends to carry in the back anyway. Because you have no friends. Because you have a BMW.
- A more controversial topic than how Theresa May made her fortune so fast, the run-flat tires come standard on BMWs. No spare wheel, no repair kit. So make sure to test drive the car and see if you can live with the run-flat tires, as they have decreased comfort and increased road noise.
- Power steering is more undecided than a woman in an outlet store. Just like a woman in an outlet store, it has its moments when it gets angry and straight up leaves.
- All the petrols on the BMW 1 Series F20 have direct injection and need occasional cleaning of the intake manifold. Oh yeah, you can’t even install LPG systems on them, so you can’t be a complete cheapskate even with the cheapest BMW.
- All modern BMW (and not only) engines have very small tolerances and are more oil dependent than ever. Oil should be changed at a maximum of 8000 km and only OEM BMW oil should be used. This way the engine will spin forever and you will avoid a lot of issues. Probably.
BMW 1 Series F20 Verdict
It’s the last rear-wheel drive hatchback from the 2010-2015 era. It’s one of the first modern BMWs to herald the arrival of front-wheel drive, 3-cylinder era. And because it comes with only 94 horsepower, I can’t take this car seriously. But I can take seriously the higher power, higher specced versions. Much like with the X5, the 1 Series is far more refined in the 2nd generation as compared to the first attempt. And it’s a pretty good attempt.
What engines do you recommend? For petrol power I want to recommend the 181 horsepower 2.0 Turbo, even though you’ll most likely go with a 116i or 114i. And in the diesel category, the pick of the bunch will be the 188 horsepower 2.0 Turbo B47. But these engines already catapult the price of the car somewhere around 45-50.000 euros and most likely you will still buy a 114d with 94 horses. 94.